As I've mentioned previously, I recently joined an online academic writing group. I was inspired by Kerry Ann Rockquemore's summer column and her advice that we use as many external motivators as possible. Although I've been quite productive over the past few years, there's one project that keeps getting placed on the back burner and thus has become my academic bête noir.
I'm not a procrastinator; on the contrary, I tend to suffer from impatience and a tendency to rush projects. I am the kind of person who joins an exercise class and then attends regularly, like clockwork. However, scholarly work is lonely and it's often difficult to see the point in completing a book once the pressure of tenure is over. After all, there are so many more pressing projects to work on that offer more immediate rewards. But once a project is left lingering too long, it takes on a life of its own and becomes a daunting specter.
So this summer I committed to working every day, even if for a short time, on my project. Although this past fall semester proved to be my busiest ever -- with a new administrative position and a full load of classes -- I still managed to write most days. I even found myself looking forward to the relative calm that comes with quiet, focused scholarly work.
Then a series of wild and unexpected events began to occur, starting with the Packers’ Superbowl win, an event that destabilized this small city with joyful celebrations. Quickly afterwards, our quiet state erupted in an ongoing political struggle that still rages. It suddenly seemed more pressing to spend my weekends protesting the dismantling of collective bargaining than revising the introduction to a scholarly book few people would read. Closer to home, one of my closest friends suffered a horrible loss. Should I spend my spring break working on my book, or visit this woman who means so much to me at what is the worst time in her life?
So, despite the imagined reprimands of my online fellow writers, and the deadlines approaching, I have chosen to spend my time on what seems to matter most. Paradoxically, knowing that my book isn’t the most important thing in the world makes it feel less daunting to write.